Zetteler: Improving the lives of rough sleepers

Improving the lives of rough sleepers

In the moment, our ability to help out a homeless person can often hinge on the number of coins in our wallet. No longer. A new device and accompanying app designed by Loughborough Design School graduate Charlotte Wilton, called b, allows cashless passersby to share some dough, while the hand-held pebble also works as a social networking tool and as a personal alarm.
Charlotte’s idea so impressed judges at New Designers 2018 that they awarded the product design and technology student the Virgin Atlantic Award and the New Designer of the Year Runner-Up Award during this year’s graduate extravaganza at the Business Design Centre in London’s Islington. Covering disciplines as far reaching as product, industrial, automotive, furniture and interior design, graphics, illustration, animation, gaming and motion arts, the annual graduate showcase brought together the cream of the crop of UK grads from more than 200 universities from across the UK – the future stars of their disciplines.
The idea for b came to Charlotte while she was volunteering over two years with the homelessness charity Crisis. During this period she saw some of the gaps where the needs of the homeless population were not being met, and knew that her design skills could come in handy. ‘I was working in King’s Cross, which is pretty much a homeless hub,’ Charlotte tells us. ‘I would come in half an hour early and just spend time chatting to people. Housing is obviously a big problem, but on a day-to-day basis, the problems are easier to solve.’
These day-to-day issues included vulnerability and isolation, which she set about tackling through the creation of b. The concept is that the hand-held device connects to passersby via an app, encouraging social connections and interactions between rough sleepers and those working or living in the same area. It’s also a personal safety alarm and can accept electronic donations. In Charlotte’s plan, homeless people can redeem these donations against food, spots at night shelters, education or courses, or savings towards long-term goals. Wall-mounted hubs around the city allow people to charge the device and to check their balance. The touchscreen interface shows users what they could redeem for their credits, and where they can collect them.
Charlotte says, ’I think the design industry can have a really positive impact on homelessness but it has to be done in the right way. The only way you can effectively design for groups outside “universal experiences” is to engage with them, and I think there’s lots of room for that.’
To find out more about another New Designers project that got us really excited, read our Q&A with Patrice Watson here.

Team Credits

Charlotte Wilton

  • Creator of 'b' a system to improve lives of rough sleepers


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Charlotte Wilton
Creator of 'b' a system to improve lives of rough sleepers